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Day of the Oprichnik: A Novel Hardcover – March 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Andrei Danilovich Komiaga is a powerful man in a dystopian Russia in the year 2028. As a high-ranking Oprichnik, he is an elite thug in the service of the czar, responsible for crushing dissent and eliminating, through violence and intimidation, the political enemies of His Majesty. Like all Oprichniki, he wears the finest clothes and an expensive wristwatch, drives his red government-issue Mercedes in the official-business-only express lane, and tops off a successful day of raping and killing with a long night of drug use and debauchery. But government work has its challenges, especially when his nation�s moral fiber is at stake. Playfully reimagining Ivan the Terrible�s feared Oprichnik operatives in a future Russia that has turned inward (save for its dealings with China, the world�s major power) and lapsed into authoritarianism, Sorokin�s novel packs a hefty satirical punch that will show American audiences why the author has been so controversial in Russia; other recent works have even provoked pornography charges. This selection is also great fun, with a wickedly absurdist humor that occasionally reminds one of William S.Burroughs. --Brendan Driscoll


Praise for Day of the Oprichnik and Vladimir Sorokin

“Vladimir Sorokin is one of Russia’s greatest writers, and this novel is one of his best. Day of the Oprichnik is a haunting and terrifying vision of modern Russia projected two decades into the future—or maybe not the future at all. A joy to read—more entertaining, dynamic, engaging, and deeply hilarious than a dystopian novel has any right to be.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story

“Anyone who wants to learn more about Russia and what could be the outcome of [Vladimir] Putin’s rule should read the book. It’s dark and dystopian, but it’s a part of our life.” —Garry Kasparov, Time

“Might this be something of a Sorokin moment in the Anglophone world? Is the pope German?” —Stephen Kotkin, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] take-no-prisoners satire from one of Russia’s literary stars . . . Vladimir Sorokin’s lurid, wildly inventive Day of the Oprichnik is a rowdy critique of Russia’s drift toward authoritarianism.” —Taylor Antrim, Newsweek

“Sorokin’s book is a sleek and darting fish . . . Day of the Oprichnik . . . should attract the readership [Sorokin] deserves . . . He has a fearless imagination willing to be put to most grotesque and energetic use.” —Alexander Nazaryan, The New Republic

“Compelling . . . Devastating . . . Powerful . . . In Day of the Oprichnik, [Sorokin] combines futurological invention with political archaism to vicious satirical effect . . . It’s as if hi-tech limbs had been grafted onto the torso of early modern statecraft: Wolf Hall meets William Gibson.” —Tony Wood, London Review of Books

Day of the Oprichnik is Vladimir Sorokin’s funniest and most accessible book since The Queue. The KGB orgy scene at the end is worthy of the great shit-eating scenes of his earlier work.” —Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

“Sorokin’s novel packs a hefty satirical punch that will show American audiences why the author has been so controversial in Russia . . . Great fun, with a wickedly absurdist humor that occasionally reminds one of William S. Burroughs.” —Booklist

“Perhaps no other postmodern writer demonstrates the angst around the reemergence of Russia’s slide back toward authoritarianism than the celebrated (and often reviled) satirist Sorokin. His latest assault, not only on Putin’s government but literary senses, is a caustic, slash-and-burn portrait of a man joyfully engaged in the business of state-initiated terrorism . . . It’s disturbing stuff, but as Sorokin’s razor-sharp caricature unfolds . . . the novelist’s keen argument becomes hard to ignore . . . [An] acidly funny send-up of Russia’s current state of affairs.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Sorokin’s creations are at once fantastically strange and all too familiar. His pen drips with imaginative fury . . . [Day of the Oprichnik] holds its own with dystopian classics like Fahrenheit 451 and honors the traditions of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and other great Russian writers even as its characters burn their books.” —Library Journal

“If queues were arranged in order of merit, it would only be fair to put . . . Vladimir Sorokin at the head.” —Lucy Ellman, The Guardian

“Sorokin [is] one of Russia’s funniest, smartest and most confounding living writers.” —Elaine Blair, The Nation

“Controversy chases the Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin the way a dog chases a stick.” —Ken Kalfus, The New York Times Book Review


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374134758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374134754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on March 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. And looking up, I noticed I was late." . . . I then proceeded to put a severed dog's head on my red, government-issued, Chinese-manufactured Mercedov car and spent the rest of the day killing enemies of the state, assaulting their wives, sending their children to orphanages, ingesting a hallucinogenic fish, before retiring to a plush bath-house for an orgy that gives new meaning to the term `organs of the state'.

And that, in essence, is the day in the life of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga set out in Vladimir Sorokin's profane, vulgar, funny, weird, chrome-wheeled fuel injected stepping out over the line "Day of the Oprichnik".

Set in Russia in 2028 this story has a decidedly dystopian bent in a fashion similar to Moscow - 2042. But Sorokin's near-futuristic society represents a sort of mutant amalgamation of 500 years of the worst aspects of Russian and Soviet life. No longer ruled by the Soviets (the "Red Period") or the cowboy capitalist oligarchs (the "White Period") of the immediate post-Soviet era, Russia is once again ruled by an all-powerful Tsar. Russia is one of the two great powers, China being the other. Russian political life is dominated by the Tsar and its soul is governed by a newly ascendant Orthodox Church. Andrei is an Oprichnik, which represents the re-creation of Russia's first "KGB", an organization created by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th-century. The Oprichniki of Ivan's time tortured and killed the Tsar's enemies, real and imagined, dressed in black robes and wandered around carrying the severed head's of dogs in order to sniff out treason.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tanstaafl VINE VOICE on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a stark depiction of a future Russia that is built around the worst of the practices of their past leaders. The hypocrisy is exceeded only by the brutality. This is also a disturbing book that would be funny in reading if it wasn't so serious in effect.

With books that have been translated into English, I never know if I am actually reading the "style" of the author or the translator. And, not knowing Russian, I have to assume the translator did a great job. Given the acclaim the book received in Russia and how well this read, I think Gambrell did a fine job.

While the events portrayed are, from a practical standpoint, highly unlikely; they are, from a philosophical standpoint, certainly plausible. Given the history of Russia in the 20th Century, the reader will not be very surprised at Sorokin's "world".

Based on this book, I have bought Sorokin's books "Queue" and "Ice Trilogy".

The Queue (New York Review Books Classics)
Ice Trilogy (New York Review Books Classics)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ORR on June 27, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Vladimir Sorokin is worth reading more for political than literary reasons. He is a courageous post-Soviet critic of the authoritarian backsliding and Orwellian fog of the Putin period. His understanding of Russian history and culture is such that he is able to place the Putin regime's nationalistic, xenophobic megalomania into the context to which it belongs. His obvious point is historical continuity between medieval Muscovy and dystopian Putinism. Here, of course, the "oprichnina" with its dog's head and broomtail is a reference back to Ivan the Terrible's thuggish proto-secret police, the oprichnina, "sniffing out" and "sweeping away" seditious enemies, real and imagined, of the paranoid medieval Muscovite despot, just as Sorokin's future set of oprichnik notables are portrayed defending an insular and xenophobic neo-tsarist Kremlin of the first half of the twenty-first century.

Viewed from a slightly different angle, "Oprichnik" is a dystopic projection of the Putin's defensive nostalgia for Holy Russia's anti-Western, authoritarian great power grandeur into the near future. Sorokin's writing relies on moments of raw semi-pornographic references which presumably can be justified as necessary to capture and satirize the hypocrisy of the Putin regime's claim to be the global protector of conservative morality and tradition. What we see is a satirical jeering at the ugly marriage of Russian Orthodoxy and anti-Western puritanical bigotry which has become characteristic of the Putin regime, an ideological replacement for the loss of Marxism-Leninism.

In the mid-19th century Tocqueville warned the West, "Today Russia says 'I am Christianity.' Tomorrow Russia will say, 'I am socialism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan Jenkins on May 29, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought the Kindle version of this book because I took an upper-level college course in 20th century Russian history and the textbook mentioned Mr. Sorokin, particularly in context to an incident wherein some Russian youth flushed his work down a giant toilet structure. I was intrigued. We studied Vladimir Mayakovsky in class and I wondered if Mr. Sorokin was similar. The book was surprising, but I enjoyed it and particularly the oprichnina theme which relates back to Ivan Grozniy. A good read. I mentioned it in my final examination essay. I got an A.
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